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  5. Shirodhara: The Ayurvedic Miracle Therapy To Relieve Stress

We're all looking for ways to reduce stress and improve sleep quality. As you well know, both your physical and mental health are integral to living a balanced, healthy life. But the question is, how do we find the balance?

Shirodhara [1] is an ancient Ayurvedic therapy that is incredibly beneficial for your body and mind. This curative and preventive wonder is a holistic health approach that originated in India thousands of years ago. It focuses on balancing your doshas and finding harmony.

If you want to learn more about Shirodhara, its benefits, and why you should try this miracle treatment therapy, keep reading.

What Is Shirodhara?

Shirodhara is a combination of two Sanskrit words, "Shira" meaning head and "Dhara" meaning stream. It involves gently pouring liquids in a stream over the head for a fixed duration of time.

While the liquids used depend on what is being treated, they typically include herbal oils and medicated liquids like milk and buttermilk.

Shirodhara can relax the mind and help eliminate stagnant waste (ama) from the body by balancing your doshas. The calming effect it produces is similar to that achieved by meditation.

Types Of Shirodhara

1. Sneha Dhara

Sneha Dhara or oil Shirodhara uses herbal oils called tela or ghee. To conduct the therapy, Ayurvedic practitioners utilize herbal oils by mixing them with different essential oils.

Lakshadi and Dhanwantaram are two such oils that are effective in treating Pitta and Vata disorders.Warm oil is principally used in a predominance of Vata and Kapha imbalances, whereas cool oils (room temperature) and other liquids are used in Pitta imbalances.

Alternatively, lukewarm oil, such as Chandan Bala Lakshadi oil, can be used in Pitta disorders. Lukewarm herbal ghee or Saraswat ghee can be used for Shirodhara if the Pitta is accompanied by Vata vitiation.

2. Ksheer Dhara

Ksheer Dhara uses milk infused with herbs. The medicated milk is poured over the head from a specific height for a certain duration of time in a rhythmic manner.

This therapy is highly beneficial for Vata and Pitta predominant headaches, stress, insomnia, and anxiety.

3. Takra Dhara

Takra Dhara uses buttermilk infused with special herbs. It is an effective therapy for those with an aggravated Vata.

What Are The Various Names Of Shirodhara?

Shirodhara is denoted by some vernacular names in the classical Ayurvedic scriptures of Charak Samhita and Susruta Samhita. Some of these include:

  • Shiro Sheka
  • Parisheka
  • Sirothara
  • Shiro Parisheka
  • Dhara
  • Shirashek

How Does Shirodhara Work?

benefits of shirodhara

Shirodhara stimulates the vital points on your head, which helps boost blood circulation. Massaging the head allows the oil to infuse deep into the scalp layer, delivering a calming sensation, which further passes to the internal peripheral nerves of the forehead.

In addition to the massage, it's the warm herbal oil utilized during the therapy that causes vasodilation of the blood vessels, leading to increased blood flow and a decrease in blood pressure.

Shirodhara can help soothe the hypothalamus, which activates the regulation of the pituitary gland. It also works in reducing elevated serotonin levels and stress hormones such as noradrenaline and adrenaline, to manage stress. That's why it can effectively help resolve insomnia.

Shirodhara is also useful in relieving many psychosomatic ailments like anxiety, tension [2], and depression.

Benefits Of Shirodhara

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1. Shirodhara For Relieving Stress

Stress is your body's reaction to emotional and physical alteration that arises from any event or thought that makes you feel angry, frustrated, or nervous.

Shirodhara effectively alleviates stress [3] from the mind and body. When an Ayurvedic practitioner pours warm oil and massages the head gently, it brings calmness, facilitates relaxation, and promotes tranquillity. The body then enters into a deep state of relaxation, turning on the parasympathetic nervous system mode.

This transition in the body conserves your energy, relaxes muscles, dilates blood vessels, and lowers the heart rate. Shirodhara therapy is excellent for treating hypertension and arrhythmia.

2. Shirodhara For Awakening Intuition

According to various Ayurvedic scriptures, the point between the eyebrows is the 'third eye.' Hinduism considers the third eye to be the sixth chakra, which is the home of intuition. It often signifies a state of enlightenment.

By practicing Shirodhara, the healer helps open the third eye, which leads to the uninterrupted flow of 'prana' or 'life force.' The prana smoothly moves throughout the energy channels and removes the blocks in your mind during the process.

It also helps recall events lying deep in your past and seeing them accurately, which previously was inaccessible. The rundown of warm oils brings immense mental clarity, enabling you to move past unresolved traumas, pains, and unfavorable emotional experiences.

3. Shirodhara For Enhancing Sleep Quality

woman sleeping in bed

Today's fast-paced life unquestionably comes with some level of stress. As a result, people often suffer from sleeplessness [4]. Being sleep-deprived can debilitate you and lead to exhaustion and lethargy. It brings a negative impact on your emotional and physical well-being.

Shirodhara is effective in reducing cortisol, which is your body's primary stress hormone. Hence, it helps relieve stress and significantly improves your sleep quality.

4. Shirodhara For Diminishing Anxiety

Shirodhara acts as a natural stress-buster. When accompanied by herbal oils, the head massage helps clear the toxins out of your brain and brings improvement in cognitive abilities such as concentration and memory.

It also balances the Pitta and Vata doshas in the body. Additionally, it regulates the serotonin hormone, which reduces several symptoms of anxiety [5], such as cold hands and feet, uneasiness, and restlessness.

5. Shirodhara For Pacifying Vata Dosha

A combination of space and air elements, excessive accumulation of Vata within the body, often leads to physical restlessness, chaotic thoughts, scattered attention, and forgetfulness.

Ayurveda recommends Shirodhara as an excellent remedy to pacify abnormal Vata dosha in your body. With the help of herbal oils, Ayurvedic practitioners balance the Vata's light, cool, and fluctuating nature. In turn, it efficiently provides relief from many underlying symptoms of a Vata imbalance.

Shirodhara: Procedure

Now that you understand what Shirodhara is and how it can benefit you, here is a step-by-step breakdown of its procedure.

1. First, the patient lies down on the Shirodhara massage bed with their eyes closed and covered.

2. The Shirodhara process starts with pouring herbal oils or specially medicated liquids steadily in a stream on to the forehead in a gentle oscillating manner.

3. It is often paired with a head and body massage performed alongside the Shirodhara.

4. After finishing the Dhara, the patient can rest for a few minutes, followed by a hot water bath. Special medicated water is used for the head.

Which Oil Is Used For Shirodhara?

In general, Shirodhara comprises the use of Ksheera Bala taila. However, other oils can also be used according to one’s condition. Here’s a list of different oils used for Shirodhara:

  • Karpasasthyadi thailam
  • Chandanadi thailam
  • Dhanwantharam thailam
  • Narayana thailam

If these oils are unavailable, one can use warm sesame oil. A few other liquids used in Shirodhara include:

  • Buttermilk processed with Indian Gooseberry
  • Decoctions of herbs, especially licorice
  • Milk
  • Coconut water

How Long Does Shirodhara Treatment Take?

The duration of Shirodhara may extend from 30 to 60 minutes and is performed for 3, 7, 14, or 28 days. The course of the treatment typically depends on what is being treated. After 28 days, it is advisable to skip Shirodhara for 7 to 15 days. Once this period ends, the Ayurvedic practitioner can begin a new treatment course depending on the patient's requirements and health conditions.

Who Should Avoid Shirodhara?

Shirodhara is unsuitable for pregnant women in their third trimester (7 to 9 months) of pregnancy, and people with a rash or sunburn on the scalp or forehead.

The therapy is also not suggested for those allergic to oil.

Some other instances to avoid Shirodhara include a recent neck injury, abrasions or cuts on the head, brain tumor, chills or fever, nausea, severe weakness, exhaustion, fainting, acute illness, and glaucoma.

Side Effects Of Shirodhara

Shirodhara is quite safe and has no recorded side effects. However, it is essential to take proper precautions so that the oil does not enter your eyes or ears during the treatment.

It might cause reactions like conjunctivitis, dizziness, glaucoma, allergy, fever, and inflammatory diseases in some extreme cases. Hence, it is strictly recommended to have the procedure performed in a certified Ayurvedic clinic from a professional therapist.

The Last Word

Like a computer's motherboard whose circuits control all its activities, our head typically serves as the information processing center of the body. Shirodhara involves using various elements like oil, ghee, milk, and water, which help in balancing your doshas. It is a powerful treatment for anyone looking to enhance their well-being, immunity, clarity, and calm while maintaining their overall health.

Know Your Dosha Now